Zee5 looks to Israel for big tech boost

Published: June 26, 2019 12:10 AM

The tech prowess of 14 Israeli start-ups is being harnessed to give the OTT player an edge in the highly competitive Indian market.

zeee5, india, israel(From left) ZEE5 India business head (expansion projects) and head (products) Rajneel Kumar, Indian ambassador to Israel Pavan Kapoor, and Applicaster CEO Jonathan Laor, at the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv.

By Tanuka Roy

Home-grown OTT (over-the-top) platform ZEE5 is set to undergo a makeover. And for this, the company, owned by media major Zee Entertainment, has chosen to harness the technological know-how of as many as 14 start-ups based in one of the world’s leading tech hubs — Israel. These firms, primarily deep-tech companies, will help ZEE5 work on different aspects to enhance the streaming app’s overall look and performance.

While Israel has the technology, India has the consumers, and the current relations between the two nations are just ideal for alliances. ZEE5 CEO Tarun Katial points out: “We have become the first to harness the capabilities of Israeli tech start-ups and their expertise in the mobile entertainment space. With the warming up of relations between the two advanced countries, we are confident of building a winning proposition for all involved.”

The long list of Israeli firms ZEE5 is collaborating with includes names such as Applicaster, ironSource and Optimove. The company recently inked a strategic partnership with Tel Aviv-headquartered Applicaster, a global cloud-based platform for app development and content distribution. The deal was signed in the presence of Indian ambassador to Israel Pavan Kapoor at the Indian embassy in the city.

Speaking at the event, ambassador Kapoor said collaborations like these will set the tone for more such partnerships in the field of innovation and technology. On the association with Applicaster, Katial said: “Our journey over the past year has given us immense insights in terms of the changing behaviour of OTT viewers. This knowledge complemented by the technological prowess of Applicaster will result in a delightful experience for the ZEE5 viewers the world-over.”

For Applicaster, which has worked with companies such as Fox and DirecTV, the partnership with ZEE5 is their first with an Indian firm. “We are thrilled to be chosen as ZEE5’s partner of choice in realising their desire to minimise development time and integrate the best of breed components to deliver an industry-leading user experience,” company co-founder and CEO Jonathan Laor said.

Among the other Israeli companies ZEE5 is working with is Minute.ly, a video optimisation technology firm which primarily works on algorithms to help create the perfect teaser for a video clip to pique user interest, thereby ensuring more clicks. Neura, an AI platform start-up, observes customer behaviour and would help ZEE5 send their users the right notifications at the right time.

“The chemistry of working with Israeli firms, their go-getter attitude and rich technological expertise pulled us in,” said Rajneel Kumar, ZEE5’s business head – expansion projects and products. The revamped version of the app, which has built up a sturdy 61.5 million monthly active user base in little over a year since its launch, is likely to be rolled out by the end of the second quarter.

At Rs 7,934 crore, ZEE5 reported an over 18% year-on-year growth in revenues for FY19, while its revenue for the March quarter grew 17% y-o-y to `2,019 crore. With the technological leg-up from Israel and a string of originals, including eight book adaptations, lined up for the year, ZEE5 is aiming to make great strides in the highly competitive OTT market.

The writer was in Tel Aviv, Israel at the invitation of ZEE5

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